CHAMPIONS LEAGUE qualifying continues on Wednesday night. Here Mark O’Haire (@MarkOHaire) picks out his favourite fancies from the coupon.
CSKA Moscow v Young Boys | Wednesday 23rd August 2017, 19:45 | BT Sport
Football can be a cruel mistress at times. The low-scoring nature of the sport ensures plenty of unpredictable results and at times, unfair outcomes.
Young Boys felt the sting last Tuesday night when they suffered a potentially fatal 1-0 defeat at home to CSKA Moscow. The Swiss side dominated the match on their artificial surface, winning the shot count 21-9 and Expected Goals measurement 3.08 – 0.92.
But the tide turned in stoppage-time when CSKA keeper Igor Akinfeev made a stunning save to shutout Guillaume Hoarau before Kaism Nuhu somehow contrived to loop a last-gasp header past his own goalkeeper to hand the Russians victory and a crucial away goal.
Viktor Goncharenko’s charges followed up that victory with a goalless draw away to Ural and the Army Club have now W7-D1-L2 in their opening 10 competitive matches across all competitions this season. A solid start.
Having qualified for the group-stages in each of the past five campaigns, CSKA are no strangers to the Champions League. Their record isn’t the greatest but having suffered only two defeats in 11 on home soil in this competition, I fully expect the Russians to get the job done.
Young Boys have now managed a sole success in four, firing blanks on three occasions. Having returned one triumph in seven Champions League qualifying away days (W1-D0-L6) – including a 3-1 reverse at Dynamo Kiev already this term – it looks like the Berne club’s chance has gone.
I’ll be backing CSKA Moscow to win at 5/6 (Betway)
Slavia Prague v APOEL Nicosia | Wednesday 23rd August 2017, 19:45 | BT Sport
Slavia Prague were another side that felt hard done by last midweek. The Czech title holders won the shot count 12-5 away at APOEL and enjoyed a 1.87 – 0.71 supremacy on the Expected Goals mark but ended up 2-0 losers in Cyprus.
The Red & Whites – bankrolled by Chinese owners – have been on a summer spending spree, recruiting the likes of Danny, Halil Atintop, Ruslan Rotan and Miroslav Stoch and so are desperate to reach the Champions League group-stage for the first time since 2007.
Jaroslav Silhavy’s side haven’t made the most impressive of starts to the new season (W3-D2-L2 in all competitions) and the hosts have notched more than a solitary strike just once in seven outings. However, I’m going to back the Prague outfit to come close to turning this tie on its head.
APOEL were clinical in Nicosia, taking a two-goal advantage inside 10 minutes with their first two of only three efforts on-target before absorbing plenty of second-half pressure.
The Legend have enjoyed a weekend off and veteran Greek boss Giorgos Donis will no doubt have been plotting a plan that could take the Cypriots through. But it’s worth noting, they’ve managed only two triumphs in 20 away Champions League ties and W2-D2-L4 of their most recent eight on the road, failing to net in four.
APOEL’s resilient and rigid style should suit them here but I’ll back Slavia to make a real game of it; we can back the hosts to win and Under 3.5 Goals at 5/4 (Boylesports) here.
CSKA Moscow v Young Boys – CSKA Moscow to win (5/6 Betway)
Slavia Prague v APOEL Nicosia – Slavia Prague to win and Under 3.5 Goals (5/4 Boylesports)